Venus & Serena Williams

Brought up in a tough neighbourhood, the sporty siblings saw tennis as their way to the top. But allegations about their father and the murder of their sister have rocked the duo.

Venus was born on 17 June 1980 in Lynwood, California, and Serena on 26 September 1981 in Saginaw, Michigan. Ranked in the top five in the world for the past two years, the prodigal Williams sisters have stunned the world. The key to their game is fast serves and strong returns that exhaust their opponents on the court.

The sisters' path into professional tennis was plotted before their birth. Their father, Richard, loved to watch tennis on TV, and dreamed he would one day watch his yet-to-be-born children play on screen. His first three daughters were not destined to be tennis stars, but Venus and Serena took to the game immediately. For six hours a day they would play with tatty rackets and dud balls against a wall or on a pot-holed court, while their father shouted instructions from a tennis manual. The pair both began to compete before they were five. They had not yet hit puberty when invitations to national training camps were dropping through their post box in Compton, LA.

As young teenagers, Richard Williams withdrew his daughters from the junior circuit and turned them both professional; he justified his actions to critics by saying the girls should concentrate on school where they were both A grade students. Too young to compete in World Tennis Association events, the teenagers played in private events and their games improved dramatically.

Of age, Venus was the first to reach a major final, but lost the US Open to Martina Hingis. Serena then won the US Open in 1999. The following year she won Wimbledon. Both sisters had a tough start to the millennium as they both had injuries, with Venus even stating she was considering retiring from professional tennis. However, she came back and won Wimbledon in 2000 after beating her sister Serena in the semi-final. They both went on to take the doubles title at the tournament.

They also represented the US in the Sydney Olympics, with Venus becoming the first woman since Helen Wills Moody to win a gold medal in both the singles and doubles games. Serena had an up and down season in 2001 but triumphantly made her way to the final of the US Open, where she met her sister. This was the first time since 1884 that two sisters had faced each other in a grand slam final. Venus's maturity won out and she took the title.

In 2002 and 2003, the sisters met in four consecutive grand slam finals with Serena winning each time. She has won a grand total of 17 single grand slams and 13 doubles, ranking her the sixth best player in history. Serena has also been ranked the women's world number one six times, with the most recent being in 2013. In 2009 she lost this title in 2010 after standing on a piece of broken glass for which she received 18 stitches in her foot, which prevented her from finishing the season.

This turned out to be a serious injury requiring surgery as it led to a blood clot. She finished 2010 ranked fourth in the world, before making her return to the tennis world in 2011.

Venus on the other hand has won seven single grand slams and 13 in doubles and has been ranked the world number one on three separate occasions. In 2011, she was diagnosed with Sjorgen's Syndrome, an auto-immune disease, which has affected her tennis ability.